Spirit Christology: Lactantius and His Sources

McGuckin, John A.

Lactantius conceives the preexistent Christ as the first-born spirit of God, a holy spirit from the supreme spirit of the Deity.’ Analogously the angels are spirits of God in so far as they too derive their origin from the Deity and share a spiritual nature. In this context the description ‘spirit of God’ would not constitute per se a divine title; it would rather signify a substantive being that participated in the spiritual nature of God, as opposed to a physical type of creaturehood. When Lactantius wishes to distinguish the Son who is God’s spirit from the angels who are similarly God’s spirits he always specifies the formulae; so he calls the Son either incorruptibilem spiritum or spiriturn, qui esset virtutibus patris dei praeditus.’ Such a precise specification is always required since the concept of ‘holy spirit’ can be equally applied to the Father, the Son or the angels. The clearest differentiation of the Sonspirit from the angel-spirits occurs in Lactantius’s adaptation of Tertullian’s Logos theology where the Son is defined as the only communicative spirit of
God, the Word, or vocal spirit, who fulfils the role of revelation.’



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April 8, 2013